Plenary 2 Trust-based philanthropy as an alternative model to traditional grant-making
Trust-based philanthropy as an alternative model to traditional grant-making
- Deepali KHANNA Vice President, Asia Regional Office, The Rockefeller Foundation
- Michael MOODY Professor of Philanthropic Studies, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
- Cherie NURSALIM Vice Chairman, Giti Group
- WANG Zhenyao Board Chairman of the China, Philanthropy Research Institute, Beijing Normal University
- Cecilia HO President, Lee Hysan Foundation
The plenary discussion kicked off with reflections from Dr Michael Moody, Professor of Philanthropic Studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, who shared that trust-based philanthropy is not just about operating principles (e.g., multi-year general operation dollars (MYGOD)), but about building relationships between grantor and grantee, with recognition for the power dynamics that exist therein. He also shared how many people think trust-based philanthropy is a silver bullet that will solve the power imbalance in giving and people can just “spray, pray, and walk away”, but that is far from the reality as it takes a lot of work to do this effectively.
Other panellists reflected on what a trust-based approach looked like in the context of their individual organisations. For example, Ms Deepali Khanna, Vice President, Asia Regional Office of The Rockefeller Foundation, commented on how her organisation has taken a heavily trust- and alliance-based approach to its many “big bets” in energy, climate, and other sectors. She cited the example of practising “MYGOD” while investing in the Peking Union Medical College as well.
Ms Cherie Nursalim, Vice Chairman of Giti Group, noted the opportunity in public-private partnerships: philanthropy contributes 2.9 trillion dollars in funding, against a total annual need of 6 trillion dollars to meet the SDGs. Pension funds and other sources of private capital can be catalytic if trusting multi-stakeholder partnerships are built.
However, all panellists recognised that trust-based philanthropy is not simple. It requires investment from grant-making organisations in building a specific set of soft and interpersonal skills versus just teaching donors how to structure a grant-making portfolio. Prof Wang Zhenyao, Board Chairman of the China Philanthropy Research Institute, Beijing Normal University, expressed optimism, noting that the PBC Forum is a valuable first step in building this discourse and awareness in the philanthropic community. Dr Moody also noted that “power in philanthropy is not something you get past, but something you work through”. Ms Nursalim suggested that sometimes if donors are finding it hard to “let go and trust completely”, they need to be brought to the grassroots so that they can engage at a deeper level and build that relationship with grantees.
Responding to the question from Ms Cecilia Ho, President of Lee Hysan Foundation, about how they evaluate a new organisation while giving based on trust, Ms Khanna shared that measurable impact is important for them not just as donors but also for their grantees. This allows them to reformulate their strategy and use evidence to guide decision-making, leading to meaningful impact.
Many of the featured questions were from charities and non-governmental organisations looking to understand the implications of a trust-based approach on grantees, including grantees’ approach to fundraising and impact measurement. Panellists offered a consensus view: it is important to shift the paradigm away from grantees chasing funding dollars, and towards a two-way conversation where grantors and grantees jointly shape a shared vision and define metrics for success.